When Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was in the lead for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, he argued that he should be allowed to snag the nod if he went into the convention with a plurality — but not a majority — of delegates, because he was uniquely capable of expanding the electorate.
It turns out, Sanders isn’t even doing well with those voters he thought were solidly in his camp, including young voters.
Back in early February, the Daily Wire reported that, while Sanders was winning early primary contests, exit polling showed Sanders wasn’t drawing any new voters to the Democratic party and turnout was lower than expected in both Iowa and New Hampshire — the two early states that solidified Sanders’ initial front-runner status.
“He might have met expectations, but he certainly didn’t exceed them,” NBC News reported in February about Sanders “limited crossover appeal.” “Turnout was lower than expected. And the entrance poll showed him with limited crossover appeal outside of his young, very liberal base.”
Sanders did, however, lose traditional Democrats, underperforming among self-described moderates, female voters, and individuals over the age of 65, many of whom were concerned with Sanders’ “Medicare for All” healthcare plan.
On Super Tuesday, the Sanders’ campaign discovered that, while they have overwhelming support among youth voters, that support isn’t translating to the ballot box.
“The revolution that Bernie Sanders is promising depends on a new wave of young voters showing up at the polls to propel his campaign,” NPR reported Saturday. “But this week, the Vermont senator acknowledged that those voters, on which his success to some degree hinges, have not shown up in the way he’d hoped.”
“While young voters were part of the coalition that propelled Sanders to victory in California, those under age 30 made up just 11% of the electorate, according to exit polls. Another 35% were between the ages of 45 and 64, and 30% were 65 or older,” NPR continued.
“Have we been as successful as I would hope in bringing young people in? The answer is no,” Sanders even admitted at a press conference on Friday, acknowledging, NPR noted, that any campaign that relies on younger voters has to tangle with their lack of interest in showing up on election day.
Youth turnout in some states was actually down, despite the outpouring of support from young people at Sanders rallies. In North Carolina, which could have been a Sanders state, had enthusiasm translated into votes, youth turnout tanked 9%.
“When I look at the collection of data, from multiple sources, there is no evidence of an increase or surge in the youth vote,” one expert, from Harvard’s Institute of Politics, even told National Public Radio. “In fact, there is considerable evidence to suggest that the youth vote is flat or declining relative to the previous election cycles.”
That’s rough news for the Vermont socialist, who needs to win at least one state in the next two weeks to stay in the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Sanders has been campaigning hard in Michigan and Illinois over the weekened, hoping against hope that 15,000-person rallies can become an electoral advantage, particularly in Michigan, widely considered a “must-win” state for Sanders, who stole the state from then-rival Hillary Clinton in 2016 in a surprise victory.
In Michigan, Sanders has to bump youth turnout, because African-American voters, who make up a large portion of the state’s Democratic base, are all in for Sanders’ current rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. Sanders is holding events in college towns like Ann Arbor, home to the University of Michigan, in the hopes that he can pick up votes there if he loses Michigan’s largely black major cities, Detroit and Flint.